- Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
Page count: 215.
The movie industry drives me absolutely nutters! I simply do not understand what is to be gained by delaying a release in different countries by months. (Maybe it has to do with the cost of movie reels — do they even use those anymore??? — but then that doesn't explain regions on DVDs. And don't even get me started on DVD regions, which prevent me from playing DVDs I have bought and paid for simply because I have bought them in different countries, thus forcing me into the world of bit torrents. I wish I could hire Rooster Cogburn to go after the film execs who come up with these ridiculous and antiquated rules!)
So, yeah, True Grit… I kept seeing ads, leading up to and during my recent holiday, for True Grit, and I happily would have stolen a couple of hours to watch it in San Diego or Boston. But of course I wasn't about to watch the movie before reading the book. I had left the book back in London, because any reading I did while on holiday was to be spent finishing up books I'd started in 2010.
Figuring (wrongly) that True Grit had already opened here in London, that was the first book I plucked off my bookshelves when I got home. And I finished it within a couple of days. And then I watched the John Wayne flick. And then I checked the movie listings and couldn't find True Grit anywhere. Then I saw something about it premiering in the UK on January 14. And just now I've discovered that it won't actually open here until sometime in February. Bloody hell! I don't want to wait that long and am half tempted to download a bootleg copy. I won't, of course. I want to see this in the cinema. I'm just pissed off that I have to wait.
You're probably wondering when I'm going to say something about the book itself. Well, hell, this ain't a book report! ;) But I suppose I must say something, though I'm not sure I have anything worthwhile to say.
I really enjoyed the book. It's written from the perspective of Mattie Ross, the girl who seeks Marshall Rooster Cogburn's aid in avenging her father, several years after the fact. Portis succeeds in capturing Mattie's spunk, matter-of-factness, and naiveté. She's a firebrand, the one with true grit, although her speech and actions are tainted with oddities that mark her out of place in such rough company. Both her character and Rooster's are vividly brought to life.
I mostly enjoyed the John Wayne movie, but more as a quaint artefact of mid-twentieth-century filmmaking mores. Although the film is more-or-less faithful to the book's plot, everything is sanitized: scrubland no scrubbier than a front lawn, weather all perfect (where's the rain and snow?!) — clearly the grit of the title didn't refer to the environs! Speaking of grit, the filmmakers take most of the edge off Mattie. It did annoy me to see her so docile. Mattie Ross should make you feel that at any moment she'll deliver a swift kick to the crotch if you don't tow the line; the film made her seem merely petulant. Clearly in the film, we're supposed to think Rooster Cogburn/John Wayne is the one to whom the title refers. Hogwash! But I suppose Hollywood couldn't abide a strong female character back then, sadly. And why did filmmakers feel the need to romanticize the ending? You're not supposed to have warm fuzzies at the end of this story!
I am most curious to see how the Coen brothers treat this. Based on previous adaptations, I am hopeful. But thanks to our lovely film industry, I will have to wait another month to find out.